And did I mention the food? I love corned beef. Love it, even though it's more Irish-American than Irish-Irish. I read somewhere that most people in Ireland have never even eaten corned beef - beef is quite expensive over there, and the corned beef is something much more Irish American. Who cares though? I love the stuff and so does my husband. He never had it until we started dating, and I am pretty sure corned beef played a large part in why he married me. :-)
I went a little crazy this year and tried a new recipe from Steamy Kitchen for Corned Beef with Guinness. (BTW, this is NOT my photo). After discovering that Pennsylvania does not sell beer in six packs at distributors, and being unwilling to shell out $35 for a case of Guinness, I was able to convince my husband to stop at Wegman's on his way home, one of the few grocery stores that sells beer in smaller quantities. (And in fact, restrict just how many ounces can be purchased at one time. PA has the screwiest liquor laws, I swear.) But anyway, after getting over the fact that we no longer live in Delaware and have access to a Total Wine on every corner where I can get any damn beer I please, I ended up with the beer I needed for the recipe.
The verdict? It was good. Very good and quite possibly the most tender corned beef I have ever cooked. I started it in the crockpot because I did not have a large enough casserole dish or a dutch oven (shocking, I know, for someone who cooks as much as I do) to do it in the oven. Naturally, I had to head over to Bed Bath to see what they had - uhhh, nothing. Their in store selection is very poor in the way of dutch ovens. Luckily, the TJ Maxx next door had a plain white ceramic casserole with a lid, oven safe to 500 degrees. SCORE! (The $15 price tag didn't hurt, considering it was sitting on the shelf next to a Le Creuset that cost 10x that. At TJ Maxx. Seriously?)
So while the corned beef was good, it was not THE BEST I HAVE EVER HAD, and let's face it, I make some damned fine corned beef. I thought it was slightly salty, even though I rinsed it very, very well. And the Guinness flavor somewhat overrode the corned beef flavor that I love. So it looks like it will be back to the "boiling the bejesus out of it" method of cooking which involves a water change (I think that alleviates the saltiness problem). But we just didn't have the "what the hell happened here?" experience where we look down and discover we've inhaled most, if not all, of the corned beef. (That really has happened)
I would also like to mention at this point that I glaze my corned beef after boiling with a paste of mustard and brown sugar, which is then broiled for a few moments until brown and bubbly. This year, I went with a spicy whole grain mustard that I purchased intentionally for this project, instead of grabbing whatever mustard is in the refrigerator. I pronounce it to be DELICIOUS and a practice that will continue. I incorporated a splash of vinegar which gave it some zip, but wasn't entirely necessary.
I did find redemption in dessert. Normally I make a lemon meringue pie for St. Patrick's Day. I don't know why, I just do. We've had lemon meringue pie for every single St. Patrick's Day that I can remember. This year, I felt like changing it up, and gave my husband a choice of a Guinness Chocolate Cheesecake or Gooey Bread Pudding - The Irish Way. My husband loves bread pudding and will usually order it if it's on the menu. I will order a chocolate cheesecake or any kind of chocolate dessert (except cake - most chocolate cake is too dry). Naturally, he picked the bread pudding and because I love him, I made it.
HOLY COW!!! You should go out and make it, but I warn you - start with a small portion (seriously - like 1/2 cup. You can go back for more), and watch out for that sauce. It is one of the most sinfully good things I have ever eaten. In my whole life. The bread pudding was amazing, and I do not generally care for bread pudding. Did I mention you should make it? Oh yes you should.
I used chocolate chips that I ground up a bit in the food processor. I mixed the chips with the bread and left them in a buttered casserole (not sprayed) overnight on the counter because I like to live dangerously. I also made and refrigerated the sauce last night. If you have a container that locks, I suggest using it because you will be sampling the sauce with your fingers. This cannot be helped. This morning, I mixed up the egg mixture, but I added 2 more eggs and some extra milk, based on some of the reviews that I read (the recipe is also on epicurious.com). I used a mixture of light and dark brown sugar because the recipe didn't specify what kind of sugar, and I added just a tiny bit of cinnamon (maybe 1/8th of a teaspoon because I can't help myself and must mess with recipes).
My oh my oh my. Oh my. And oh yes, that Guinness Chocolate Cheesecake WILL be making an appearance at some point.
But wait.... there's more.
Since my husband a) doesn't much care for Valentine's Day as he is convinced it is a made up Hallmark holiday and b) had to spend 3 days, including Valentine's Day, in NJ for a work conference, we decided that we would celebrate St. Patrick's Day instead. Yay. Presents for me!!! (I did pack him up a lovely goodie bag of snacks for his hotel and made him a nice steak dinner before he left, so he didn't get completely out of Valentine's Day.) Behold...
A new Vera Bradly On the Go bag in Twirly Bird Navy, my Irish version of flowers- an oxalis plant and a shamrock plant, my Guinness beer, and not one, but two perfumes - Sinner and Saint by Kat Von D. I've already been subjected to shaming by several friends for liking Kat Von D's perfume, but let me just state for the record that I don't care one way or the other about Kat Von D - whatever floats your boat, but I'm not a fan. I wouldn't have even picked them up to smell had I not been intrigued by the Sinner and Saint names. Smelling them was my downfall - I couldn't get them out of my head, and my lovely husband obliged me buy purchasing not one, but both! Let me tell you - that Sinner is some sexy stuff... Ahem. This is most definitely a tradition we plan on continuing. It worked out quite well.
And as your reward for reaching the near end of this very long, ridiculously self centered post, I give you the cutest leprechaun ever...
I took some photos last week to send out some St. Patrick's Day cards to friends who celebrate and to Nick's Grandma and Poppy, and his Great Grandma. Nothin cuter than a little boy in a sweater and jeans. Unless it's a cutie patootie "sniffing" some flowers.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!